Police hope 101 number will reduce abuse of 999

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THERE is a new number to dial for the police for non-urgent calls.

From this week you can dial 101 to speak to the police on non-urgent matters, instead of finding a switchboard number.

Suffolk and Norfolk police are now part of the 101 non-urgent call system, which is being rolled out across the country. All forces will use it by the end of the year.

The aim is to create an easy way to contact any local police force to report non-emergency crimes, disorder or anti-social behaviour or to speak to local police officers.

People who are deaf, hard of hearing or speech impaired can textphone 18001 101.

Suffolk’s assistant chief constable Paul Marshall said: “Everyone knows to ring 999 in an emergency, but research shows that only half of the public know how to contact their local police if they want to talk about less urgent issues.

“The introduction of an easy-to-remember, three-digit number should help address this. It is also hoped that the introduction of 101 will help divert more non-urgent calls away from the 999 system, freeing up call handlers to deal with genuine emergencies.”

Suffolk Police took 56,848 999 calls this year to October 12, which is 292 a day, and estimate that about 40 per cent are not ‘appropriate use’ – more than 22,000 calls or 116 a day.

While 999 calls are free, 101 calls cost 15p from all networks regardless of how long they are.

When calling 101, the system determines the caller’s location and connects them to the force covering that area. A recorded message announces which police force the caller is being connected to, but gives a choice if they are on a boundary between two or more forces. There is also an option to speak to an operator to contact another force.

The police say the sort of calls that should go to 101 are if a vehicle has been stolen, property has been damaged, drug use or dealing are suspected, if you want to give the police information about crime or if you want to speak to a local police officer. 

But they stress 999 should still be used in emergencies, which is where life is in danger, a serious offence is in progress, a suspect is at a scene, an alleged offender is identified anywhere, there is an imminent likelihood of violence or damage to property or there has been a serious road accident.

The 101 number was trialled in Wales and Hampshire before the roll out began in London and the home counties in July.

The 999 number was first used in London in 1937 and was said to have been chosen because it was easy to use in the dark or for blind callers. It is used mostly by the former British Empire, but UK users can also use the European-wide 112 number.